Published On: Tue, Mar 8th, 2011

Remember John Belushi – Behind the Screen with Mike Smith

This past Saturday, March 5, marked the 29th Anniversary of the death of John Belushi.  I was very fortunate to have been around when his star began to rise and very unfortunate to hear the news when it finally burnt out.  As I do every March 5 I began thinking about what might have been and I came up with the following thoughts:

1.  He was truly one of a kind.

In 1978 John Belushi starred on the number one show on television (“Saturday Night Live”), had a number one movie at the box office (“National Lampoon’s Animal House”) and added an album that also went to number one (The Blues Brothers “Briefcase Full of Blues”).  I can’t think of any performer, past or present, who has been able to achieve that feat.  Belushi was at the very top of the entertainment world before he was 30.

2.  He was growing.

After his breakout role as Bluto in “Animal House” I’m sure Belushi could have had a full career of playing slobs.  But instead he pursued other roles.  A small supporting role in “Goin’ South” opposite Jack Nicholson.  A hilarious cameo as “Wild” Bill Kelso in Steven Spielberg’s underrated comedy “1941.”  When he and “Blues Brothers” partner Dan Aykroyd were cast in the film “Neighbors” they switched their original roles, with Aykroyd now playing the crazy neighbor who moves in next to Belushi’s suburban house owner.  His final complete role was as a Chicago reporter in “Continental Divide.”  It is here that Belushi gave us a look at the future.  His performance was spot on and fully developed.

3.  What we missed.

Belushi’s last filmed performance was planned for use during the opening of an episode of “Police Squad.”  As Belushi died before the episode ran the footage was removed and replaced.  In later years, when looking for extras to put on the series DVD, the footage was no where to be found.

Aykroyd had written at least two roles for his friend, parts that would be taken by other “SNL” alum.  The first role was of Emmit Fitz-hume in “Spies Like Us,” a role that later went to Chevy Chase.  The second was that of Dr. Peter Venkman in “Ghostbusters,” played in the film by Bill Murray.  Rumors also have him turning down the title role in “Arthur” and the part of Billy Blazejowski in “Night Shift.”  Billy Blaze made Michael Keaton a star.

I’m convinced that Belushi could have gone on to have a career similar to Robin Williams, who coincidentally was with Belushi the night he died.  In a bit of irony, Belushi starred in a short film on “SNL” called “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”  In the film he mourns the fact that he is the last living survivor of the original “Saturday Night Live” cast.  Sadly, he was the first to go.

Belushi was scheduled to present the Best Visual Effects Oscar with Aykroyd at the 54th Annual Academy Awards but died three weeks before the ceremony.  As he stood alone at the podium, Aykroyd honored his friend by saying, “My partner would have loved to have been here tonight to present this award, since he was a bit of a Visual Effect himself.”

I had hoped to attach a clip of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” but it’s not available due to copyright.  Here is a look at the teaser trailer for “1941,” narrated by Aykroyd, where Belushi is referred to as “Wild” Wayne Kelso.  It almost looks like Belushi says “Bill” and “Wayne” is overdubbed.  Enjoy!

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See the article here: http://moviemikes.com/2011/03/mikes-behind-the-screen-remembering-john-belushi/

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